Update: This story now includes a full statement from Mayor Tom Butt to local residents who attended Wednesday’s rally.
Richmond parents whose children attend charter schools rallied Wednesday afternoon near Richmond Mayor Tom Butt’s private offices in Point Richmond to demand that their kids be included in the Richmond Promise college scholarship program.
One of the parents, Erick Chavez, asked the Richmond Standard on Wednesday morning to publish a notice about the gathering involving parents, students and advocates, which was originally set for 4:30 p.m. at 450 Civic Center Plaza. The rally was then moved, without notice to the media or apparently to the Mayor’s Office, near to Mayor Butt’s office at Interactive Resources at 117 Park Place in Point Richmond. Chavez provided the above photo of the rally.
The mayor and fellow Richmond City Council members are facing community pressure over their upcoming decision on which local students will benefit from the $35 million grant and how much each will receive. Funded by a community benefits agreement between the city and Chevron Richmond, the scholarships are slated to be delivered to college-going students starting this school year.
Aside from the rally, the mayor’s office said it received three calls Wednesday urging support for charter school inclusion. The mayor published a statement in response to Wednesday’s action, which can be read in full at the bottom of this story. In it, he states he is “open to including” Richmond residents attending charter schools, but adds that Richmond City Council is still in the process of reviewing program options and will take up the matter “within the next two months.”
During the course of two meetings last month, council heard recommendations from an ad hoc committee and made some less-controversial decisions to move the program forward, according to this Richmond Confidential report.
Parents from both charter and private schools have been vocal in their opposition to recommendations by some that their students be excluded from the scholarships. The program’s intent is to benefit all residents, not just a select few, they say.
Those advocating to exclude private and charter schools — including some West Contra Costa Unified representatives and members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) — say $35 million isn’t enough to ensure a college future for all Richmond students. The RPA has advocated for a pilot project that serves a select few public schools at first with the hope that additional fundraising will provide for expansion in the future.
In his statement, Mayor Butt said he does not support the RPA pilot project proposal. Below is the mayor’s full statement responding to parents and students who attended Wednesday’s rally: